Scene Twelve: Characters of Evil

Gustav Mahler–Symphony No. 6 in A Minor –1. Allegro Energico

While we were still in Bucharest, my husband invited a group of Romanian friends to join us for dinner. He chose his favorite restaurant in the Athénée Plaza Hotel. When we entered, I noticed several tables of men, without women. Some of the men wore scarved turbans; all of them had dark moustaches and full, coiffed beards. They were laughing, shouting, drinking champagne, and eating caviar, while three, blonde Romanian women entertained them with their belly-dancing talents. The men, more than a dozen, one by one, went to the stage and stuffed a hundred dollar bill into each dancer’s bra. I looked around at the Romanian waiters who were unusually subservient, and the Gypsy musicians equally so, playing Arabic music. I wondered, What is going on?

That is when I decided to research the situation.

Gift of Diamonds contains elements of historical fiction in its narrative storyline and political fresco of Romania during the latter half of the 20th century. Nicolae Ceausescu, the ruthless dictator of Romania for twenty-four years, was at center stage during this time. Due to his insatiable ambition to be the wealthiest man in Eastern Europe, he became middleman and power broker for several Middle Eastern countries.

Ceausescu was a complex man. He was short, not more than 5’4” and his favorite pastime was to watch movies in his private screening room. His preferred films were about Napoleon, his role model.


Ceausescu had a difficult time expressing himself because he stuttered and was self- conscious of the weakness. He was not educated, barely finishing elementary school; yet, he was shrewd with a talent to double-cross whoever prevented him to get his way. He was of peasant stock and ferociously hungry for power and money.

He entered the communist party at the age of fourteen and was imprisoned three times during World War II by Antonescu’s fascist government for being a member of the disallowed communist party. Jail became his schoolyard and he learned from other imprisoned communists about Stalin, Marx and Lenin. This is where he met his mentor, Gheorghiu-Dej, who went on to become Romania’s post-war communist dictator for many years. (1947-1965)

While in jail, Ceausescu was Gheorghiu-Dej’s servant. He brought him his meals, washed his clothes, shined his shoes, did his errands, and slept outside his bedroom door. Ceausescu was a dutiful, waiting watchdog.

Ceausescu was rewarded and followed Gheorghiu-Dej as communist leader in 1965. He solidified his own dictatorship with the same style of rabid secret police, spies, informers, and ruthless schemes. However, his true motives were not political, but economic, and he brokered a career worth billions of dollars with his friends, Yasser Arafat and Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, as well as with several American presidents.

His relationship with Yasser Arafat began as early as 1967. He called Arafat his “brother” and “clever fox” and it was through him that Ceausescu was able to infiltrate into Arab circles. In return for Arafat’s introductions, Ceausescu was willing to render him favors. One service was to train the PLO’s in Romania. Some people say he set up a military compound with Arab translators to teach the PLO’s how to be suicide bombers.

Ceausescu trained Arafat’s bodyguards as well.

Arafat and Ceausescu  

Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was Ceausescu’s next business partner.

Ceausescu and Colonel Muammar Qaddafi, President of Libya in Tripoli, 1974  

Ceausescu worked closely in a symbiotic Machiavellian system with Gaddafi who became his venture capitalist banker and client. Oil was their first partnership. Their idea was to set up a modern oil refinery on Romania’s Black Sea to process Libyan crude oil and export the by-products as Romanian. In this way, they were able to circumvent an international embargo and boycott of Libyan oil.

For this venture, Ceausescu built the first major oil refinery in Eastern Europe in Brazi, 35 miles north of Bucharest. As far back as the 1850’s Romania was rich in oil, especially in the oil fields of Ploiesti, 56 miles north of Bucharest. Hitler used Romania’s oil production, which he needed for his tanks as the German Army entered Romania and the Ukraine on to Leningrad in their Eastern Front. But Hitler left the oil reserves depleted in Romania and the Allies bombed those fields to nothing. After the war, Ceausescu decided to rebuild them with Gaddafi’s money.

Following their oil business, Ceausescu offered Gaddafi forged passports. Gaddafi needed them for his terrorist friends, especially Carlos the Jackal. Ceausescu had contacts in West Germany and made arrangements for Carlos to sneak into private airports in western Europe without being detected. In return for this favor, Carlos killed Ceausescu’s enemies- Romanian dissidents who worked for Radio Free Europe in Paris. Carlos also irradiated their Headquarters in Munich, causing many of them to die of cancer.

Ceausescu and Gaddafi solidified their friendship with other partnerships and included their friend, Arafat:

Arafat’s PLO’s had captured in Lebanon during the war with Israel, a Fokker tank, which Arafat sent to Romania to be copied and manufactured. Ceausescu and Gaddafi went on to produce and sell the tank to rogue nations as well as machine guns, armaments, special bullets, bacteriological weapons, powerful napalm missiles, nuclear reactors, centrifuges, plutonium, and heavy water as a coolant for centrifuges and for uranium production.

Ceausescu amassed huge profits in his role as an arms dealer to Libya, Syria, Iraq, and North Korea. In 1985 Romania had become the world’s fifth major exporter of weapons and ammunition after the United States, Russia, Germany, and Israel. Ceausescu sold Soviet military technology to the United States which included anti-aircraft systems, mobile rocket launchers, radar systems, air defense systems and non-nuclear weapons. Several American presidents did not say no to these business opportunities:

President Nixon and Ceausescu
President Ford with Ceausescu
President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter, with Elena and Nicolae Ceausescu
President George Bush Sr. with Ceausescu

Ceausescu was a shrewd businessman and as dictator of Romania, he looked at every political relationship with the eye of a capitalist. He bought Alouette helicopters that fly in high altitudes and Puma copters that fly at night from President Giscard D’Estaing of France to help the French President show an economic profit for his re-election campaign. In return, Giscard introduced Ceausescu to his “friend,” Jean Bedel Bokassa, dictator of Central Africa Republic, who was in control of the world’s richest diamond mines.

In 1975, Ceausescu invited Bokassa to Bucharest and gave him a welcoming gift- a beautiful woman (and spy) to entertain the African dictator. She later became Mrs. Bokassa and her new husband agreed to give Ceausescu a commission for their union- 10% of the profits from a diamond mine in Central Africa.

Ceausescu’s interest in diamonds was sparked by this African mine and in the late 1970’s, he clandestinely set up a factory in Romania to produce synthetic diamonds based on a technology his secret agents had stolen from the De Beers Company.

The South African diamond giant was beginning to produce synthetic diamonds of pastel pink and baby blue in their labs at Element Six Innovation Center, 16 miles from Oxford, England. Their method of production consisted of using a real diamond seed that was placed under high temperature and high pressure for two weeks in the lab rather than for millions of years in the earth. This is what Ceausescu dreamed of achieving.

Yet, what Ceausescu made the most money from was an intricate trade market of human beings – of Jews and ethnic Germans to leave Romania and emigrate to Israel, Germany and western countries. In the book, “The Ransom of the Jews,” author Radu Ioanid, gives a precise description of how Ceausescu made millions of dollars in cash and gold from 1968 to 1989 by selling human beings. As Ceausescu said many times, “Jews, Germans and oil are our best export commodities.”

When Ceausescu saw that there was also money to be made in nuclear energy, he got involved. In 1967 he began dealing with the CaMican company, Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, for its uranium and nuclear reactors called CANDU.

Ceausescu’s goal was to build nuclear reactor centers with the help of the Canadian company, as well as to export atomic energy, uranium, plutonium, and heavy water to Third World countries. He built such centers in Romania, in the cities of Cernavoda and Targoviste. In Cernavoda, Ceausescu built Eastern Europe’s first nuclear power plant that used western equipment from Canadian parts, not Russian. In Targoviste, he created a center to produce special valves for nuclear reactors that were based entirely on the secret technological intelligence from Canada. His eldest son worked in Targoviste after he received an engineering degree in London. However, all the transactions that Ceausescu made with Canada were used in ways that Canada did not agree to and did not want. Consequently, Canada distanced themselves, legally, from the dictator.

A decade later, Ceausescu wanted to find another partner – Pakistan’s Zulfikar Ali Bhutto to increase Romania’s nuclear capability. When Ceausescu went to Karachi to present a business proposal, he gave Bhutto an inventory of specific nuclear intelligence information Romania could provide Pakistan. Included was information on the Degussa centrifuge system for enriching uranium and the production of uranium 235, both essential to produce nuclear power, both coming from stolen blueprints.

President Ali Bhutto
18 Sep 1973, Washington, DC, USA — Pakistani Prime Minister, Zulkifar Ali Bhutto (1928-1979) during his visit to the White House. — Image by © Bettmann/CORBIS

Ceausescu acquired these blueprints from one of his secret agents who worked in West Germany as an engineer for URENCO, a nuclear research consortium which specializes in uranium enrichment. The spy stole the designs for Ceausescu and returned to Romania for a big promotion.

Coincidentally, at the same time in 1975, Dr. Abdul Qadeer Khan was working in URENCO in the Netherlands and living there with a Dutch woman who later became his wife. In 1976, he left the Netherlands with stolen blueprints of high-powered Dutch SNOR centrifuges which are fast enough to enrich uranium into nuclear bomb-grade material.

Time Magazine Cover: The Merchant of Menace

Dr. Khan, with the blessings and backing of Bhutto, set up a nuclear research program in Islamabad, Pakistan in 1976 and became the Father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. To achieve this, Dr. Khan built SNOR centrifuges with the stolen blueprints from URENCO. Bhutto did not need Ceausescu anymore. He had Dr. Khan, who went on to produce and sell nuclear parts, centrifuges and reactors to make nuclear bombs for rogue nations in an international nuclear bazaar.

One of Dr. Khan’s most important clients was Gaddafi. Both men shared the common goal to use nuclear weapons for the Muslim world. Dr. Khan was driven by his ambition that if Muslims possess nuclear weapons, they would be able to re-establish the primacy of Islam.

Colonel Gaddafi had tried in the late 1980’s with Ceausescu’s assistance to build a nuclear program in Tripoli that would reprocess plutonium and use high-powered centrifuges to enrich uranium. With Dr. Khan’s assistance, Colonel Gaddafi did not have to give up his dream.

In 1995, Gaddafi made contact with Dr. Khan, who supplied the Libyans with technical instructions on how to build a nuclear warhead. In 1997, Dr. Khan sent ships to Tripoli with crate-loads of centrifuges and equipment, routing the ships through Europe and Dubai. For this transaction, Gaddafi paid Dr. Khan $100 million.

At the end of Ceausescu’s dictatorial regime in December 1989, Romania had generated a trade surplus as large as $2 billion a year with zero debt. And yet, the Romanian people were starving, had little heat, limited electricity, lack of medical care, no goods, no money, no human rights. Romania was second to Albania as the poorest country in Europe. However, when the East started to unite with the West, Ceausescu opposed Gorbachev and his Glasnost and Perestoika policies. Ceausescu wanted communism to continue and his lucrative business deals to increase with his dictatorial powers.

His countrymen had enough of Ceausescu. On December 16, 1989 the residents of Timisoara demonstrated against him. This began the spark to ignite the entire country.

Protest and fighting brought the country to chaos. Romania was the only Eastern European country during this time that toppled their government in a “bloody” revolution. And where was the leader when all this was happening? Ceausescu was in Iran, securing the safety of his money.

He had gone to visit the newly elected President, Akbar Hashemi Rasfanjani, who was the head of the private, Tehran Bank. Ceausescu trusted his billion dollars worth of gold in this bank, rather than in Swiss banks because he wasn’t sure of Swiss secrecy laws. Rasfanjani kept Ceausescu’s gold secret and near him.

Photo of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani meeting with Ceausescu
Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani meeting with Ceausescu in Tehran on December 18, 1989

During the two days that Ceausescu was in Tehran on December 18 and 19, 1989, he had left his wife, Elena, in charge of a revolution that was blazing in Timisoara. Once he returned home to Bucharest on December 21, he tried to quiet the protestors at Presidential Square, but thousands continued to demonstrate against him.

On December 22, he tried to speak to the crowds again, but they answered by throwing stones. Ceausescu had his Minister of Defense, shot, because the General had ordered the Army not to shoot the dissidents. Ceausescu then ordered a counter attack by his special “Killer Commandoes,” comprised of Iranian Revolutionary Guards that Rafsanjani had given him as a gift when he left Tehran. That afternoon, Ceausescu and Elena, had their personal helicopter take them from the roof of the Central Committee building and fly them to safety. Instead, they landed in the countryside, were taken into a car, and captured. Escorting them was their friend, Ion Iliescu, who was more Gorbachev’s “trusted” friend from university days. Iliescu became the next President of Romania.

On December 25, the Ceausescus were tried by an improvised military tribunal in the town of Tirgoviste. The irony of history is that Tirgoviste was where Ceausescu had built a nuclear reactor center to flaunt his glory. They were found guilty of genocide and Crimes against Humanity, and were quickly executed before a firing squad.

The speed of the trial and the execution were orchestrated by a group of Ceausescu’s inner circle friends who had turned into his enemies, overnight. They knew first hand how important it was to quiet the man who knew all their secrets of twenty-four years.

Trial of Ceausescu YouTube footage: